Theodore Robert v. City of South Bend Indiana et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART 10 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Senior Judge James T Moody on 3/15/2016. (tc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CITY OF SOUTH BEND, INDIANA,
No. 2:15 CV 173
OPINION and ORDER
This matter is before the court on defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff
Theodore Robert’s complaint. (DE # 10.)
Plaintiff is an African-American male who, at all times relevant to this case, was
employed by the City of South Bend as a police officer. Plaintiff claims, amongst other
things, that he experienced discrimination in the form of retaliation. Plaintiff contends
that defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) et
seq., and the First Amendment.
Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff’s claims under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A judge reviewing
a complaint under a RULE 12(b)(6) standard must construe it in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences in
the non-movant’s favor. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Reger Dev., LLC v.
Nat’l City Bank, 595 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Under the liberal notice-pleading
requirements of the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, the complaint need only
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy RULE 8(a), “the statement need only ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
“While the federal pleading standard is quite forgiving, . . . the complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 2011);
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. A plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To meet this standard, a complaint
does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond providing “labels and
conclusions” and “be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry & Neurology, 40 F.3d 247,
251 (7th Cir. 1994) among other authorities). As the Seventh Circuit recently explained,
a complaint must give “enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a
story that holds together.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010).
However, the plaintiff does not need to plead facts that establish each element of
a cause of action and, “[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so
long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint.” Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251. Even
if the truth of the facts alleged appears doubtful, and recovery remote or unlikely, the
court cannot dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if, when the facts pleaded
are taken as true, a plaintiff has “nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570.
This motion requires little discussion. The Seventh Circuit has stated that
plaintiffs alleging employment discrimination “may allege these claims quite
generally.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). “A complaint need
not ‘allege all, or any, of the facts logically entailed by the claim,’ and it certainly need
not include evidence.” Id. (quoting Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 518 (7th Cir. 1998)
(emphasis in original)). “[I]n order to prevent dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
alleging [racial] discrimination need only aver that the employer instituted a (specified)
adverse employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of her [race].” See Tamayo,
526 F.3d at 1084; see also Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1028 (7th Cir.
2013) (same); Huri v. Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 11 C 3675, 2012 WL 1431268, at *3
(N.D. Ill. Apr. 25, 2012) (“For a Title VII discrimination claim, a plaintiff must allege
facts that plausibly suggest that the defendant employer ‘instituted an adverse
employment action against [the plaintiff] on the basis of her’ protected characteristic.”
(quoting Joren v. Napolitano, 633 F.3d 1144, 1146 (7th Cir. 2011))). While Swanson was
decided in the context of Title VII claim, the rationale appears equally applicable to First
Amendment retaliation claims. In this case, Counts I and II of plaintiff’s complaint
present plausible allegations of retaliation under Title VII and the First Amendment,
and dismissal is not warranted at this time. However, defendants are correct that Title
VII permits suit against only employers, not individual employees, Sattar v. Motorola,
Inc., 138 F.3d 1164, 1168 (7th Cir. 1998), so plaintiff’s Title VII claim against all
defendants except the City of South Bend must be dismissed.
Count III of plaintiff’s complaint is a different story. Though plaintiff is
represented by counsel in this case, Count III is virtually unintelligible from a legal
standpoint, and the court can discern no actual claim therein. Plaintiff appears to have
made a number of complaints to the City about racial issues and received no response,
but it is unclear how these circumstances translate into a legal claim. Accordingly,
Count III is dismissed.
Defendants’ motion to dismiss (DE # 10) is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED,
Date: March 15, 2016
s/James T. Moody
JUDGE JAMES T. MOODY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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